The Diamondbacks had a litany of picks to restock the farm system, starting with 7 picks on the draft’s first day. They ultimately selected a prep outfielder, two prep arms (one LHP, one RHP), three college hurlers (one LHP, two RHP), and a college outfielder. Our very own Jack Sommers was able to attend the conference call for Scouting Director Deric Ladnier and promptly recorded the whole call, which took place shortly after the first day of the draft ended Monday night. The topics that came up aside from the individual players selected with the 7 picks they had included draft strategy from a financial and talent perspective, the process that goes into every player selected in the draft, and the reasoning behind the run of pitchers they took between the 26th and 74th picks.
Here’s what Ladnier had to say about how the first day of the draft went for the Diamondbacks (warning, this is very lengthy as the original audio is 21 minutes long):
- Drafting Lakeside HS (Seattle, WA) outfielder Corbin Carroll 16th overall: “An exceptional pick at that spot. We knew the player very well, we knew the family very well, and it was someone we’ve obviously targeted since the day after the draft last year when we saw him play all summer. We saw him play all spring and he’s played on the international stage and performed exceptionally well. Special kid, special talent, and we’re obviously pleased to get him. Obviously he could have gone before we picked [at 16] and when he’s staring at you in the face we obviously felt like it was an exceptional pick.”
- Drafting five straight pitchers between the 26th and 74th selections: “Obviously we went with pitching, in the past years we gone with position players and we felt like it was it an opportunity to take the best pitchers available and not bypassing position players. These were pitchers we wanted to take and with the drafts we’ve had in the past it kind of fit into a plan of being able to add these type of guys.”
- Drafting New Hanover HS (Wilmington, NC) LHP Blake Walston 26th overall: “He’s super athletic, he was the quarterback of the football team. When you look at the athletic ability, you look at the body type, you look at the compete factor, it’s your traditional left-handed pitcher: fastball, curveball, change-up and he’s able to repeat it. A really good strike thrower and the best part about him is he touches 94 and there’s so much more growth and development for him and we truly believe at the end of the day it’s not going to be tomorrow, but it’s going to take some time. At the end of the day we feel like this is a guy if he went to college, if we were picking high in the draft we’d have an opportunity to get him then.”
- Drafting IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) RHP Brennan Malone 33rd overall: “Athletic, big, strong, right-handed pitcher. We’ve had him up to 97, a power arm, slider, curveball, change-up. As we’ve watched over the years, we watched him obviously all last summer and he was a hard thrower and working on developing his breaking ball and over the Spring those were the tendencies we saw continue to improve: better body control, better command of the strike zone. He went from starting in the summer last summer because a lot of these guys when they go out and play in the summer they are throwing to the radar gun, they want to see how hard they can throw it. Over the course of the spring we watched him develop into a power pitcher, he’s obviously he’s young, a big, strong, and has tremendous upside.”
- Drafting Ball State RHP Drey Jameson 34th overall: “Shorter in stature, 6’0”, but it’s electric. We’ve had him up to 100. If you watch him, you see it’s high energy. Plus breaking ball, plus change-up, pounds the zone. He’s one of those guys we think that as he gets to the system he’s going to be able to develop at a more rapid pace than the high school pitchers. This guy is electric when he’s on the mound. He was a guy to try to balance out the draft, one that could get through the system much quicker than some of the upside of some of the other guys.”
- Drafting Oregon RHP Ryne Nelson 56th overall: “Converted shortstop and once again electric: 97, 98, maybe some people saw 99. Super athletic, has a wipeout slider, has a good feel for a change-up. Given the fact he’s a converted guy, it’s going to take a little bit more time to get his delivery in control and online, but given the athlete we feel like this could be something we can put in the hands of our development and it should not take very long for him to be able to harness all the talent we feel like he has.”
- Drafting Michigan LHP Tommy Henry 74th overall: “We saw him a bunch this year. He’s a big, strong, left-hander who we had up to 94, traditional curveball, traditional change-up, pounds the zone, a lot of swing and miss. He’s that big body lefty, college performer, that like [Drey] Jameson once we get him in the system we’ll be able to start pushing him like we have with some of our other guys.”
- On starting out some of the college arms from the draft: “You’ll have to understand with the college guys, they’re going to be on limited pitch counts, you won’t see a lot of them this summer. They’ll go wherever we decide to send them, but because of the number of pitches and innings they’ve accumulated over the course of the Spring, we’ll slow pace those guys through the year. Mike Bell will determine how many innings they throw, now many pitches they throw, but they’ll be handled with kids gloves, bring them in instructional league then spring training.”
- Drafting Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher 75th overall: “Plus defender in center field. He’s got tremendous instincts, we love the bat. He’s got power, we see more gap-to-gap, doubles type guy. His brother plays in the big leagues with the Angels, so there’s some genetics there so he’s been around the game and we feel like that’s an easy transition for him.”
- Draft philosophy with all the draft picks and the biggest bonus pool in mind: “We were taking the top player on the board and phone calls between each pick, it was the most picks I’ve ever had, 7 picks. We have 8 picks tomorrow, so it’s almost overwhelming when you start thinking about the number of picks you have in Day 1 and going into Day 2 and you have 8 picks. Maybe there’s somebody that wasn’t selected, where their demands were a bit higher than where they were going to be selected and we’ll have the financial flexibility to maybe do some things.”
- On the topic of signability: “We weren’t taking guys because we thought we could sign them, we were taking guys because we know we can sign them. It’s the first time you look at your signability board and it’s not real big. Maybe there were guys that were over the price of the value of the player is, but the demands of what they wanted was really not an issue.”
- The topic of high school players vs. college players and the associated risks with each: “With any player, there’s risk. Obviously with the college player, just percentage wise, are a safer bet. With some of these guys that we took we think the ceiling is higher than maybe some of the other guys. When they’re younger, they’re still developing physically, still developing mentally, and the tools you expect to get better.”
- Who was involved in the draft process: “There were more people involved. As far as evaluation goes, from the analytic perspective nothing changed, obviously there’s an attention to detail in every aspect of it. What we’ve done here is blended them together, to where everyone has a voice, it’s not just a scouting director saying we’re going to take this guy, it’s a team effort. It starts with [General Manager] Mike Hazen, Amiel [Sawdaye], and Jared Porter, all the cross-checkers and all the area scouts and all the people looking at the numbers and going this is what we anticipate what this player will be from an analytical perspective, this is what we think a player will be from a physical perspective from a pure scouting. I think the organization has done a tremendous job in a very short period of time of being able to mesh those two together to where at the end of the day the process is really good. We had special assistants that were out. I wouldn’t say we had more looks, we just had more different opinions on looks.”
- How the organization evaluated players: “We see these players a lot, if you looked at our board and saw how many times we saw everyone one of these players, you would be very overwhelmed. If you don’t have those number of people involved, maybe there are only 4-5 evaluations. When you’re spending the type of money that we’re spending on these players, if you don’t feel comfortable enough in the process then it is difficult to select a player. Every one of these players, they were all spread out. We made sure we saw all these guys at different times and we spread out those looks, looked at all the data, and combined it all together with the evaluations and decide who you’re going to select and how you’re lining up the board. There was an effort to make sure there was more information, more looks, and understanding the dynamics and the impact it has on the organization.
- International Players vs. players selected in the MLB Draft: “Usually the players you’re getting on the international side are going to spend a year or two in the Dominican academy, which buys time for drafted players to start developing. Then you start filtering them in with the better prospects of the organization. They just blend in, there is no difference, it’s just the timetable is to the level of their development, how fast they develop, it just takes a little bit longer. Even the high school players we select here, they’re at a higher skill level than most of the international players because of their age (HS players are around 18, international prospects are eligible to sign at 16) and the fact they’ve already played in the states and you’re bringing guys over from Latin American countries, you’re spending more time with cultural adaptation. So that process slows and these guys start moving and you filter it into the system and you start looking where you have strengths and weaknesses. That is truly how you build a great organization, by having that blend. [Director of Latin American Scouting] Cesar [Geronimo Jr.] and his staff have done a great job of seeing the noticeable difference of what you’re looking for and the differences. They do the same things we do, they’re just dealing with a different market.”
- Setting up the draft board and contingency scenarios: “We go through every scenario, D-Day scenario to best case scenario, we start looking at D-Day scenarios you hope that doesn’t happen but you have to be prepared for that to happen. We line up the board based on ability and understanding that other teams are picking as well. You hope that your board is lined up to the point where you don’t have that D-Day where you’re taking someone thinking ‘Oh wow, we’re going to have to take this guy here’. That didn’t happen, all the players that we took were strategically put on our board for varying reasons and when we’re selecting these players, all of them we were selecting we were proud to get. I don’t think anything ever falls perfectly, so you have to be prepared for each level of player and hope that your level of ability is dropping off to the point where you’re uncomfortable. With these players the talent level we didn’t feel like dropped off, we felt like we got players we truly wanted.”
It appears the Dbacks made a very thorough evaluation of all the potential players they could have taken in the draft and felt comfortable making the gambles that they did. I do agree that there was no D-Day scenario, especially with the top 4 picks in the draft. At 16, they had a choice of Corbin Carroll, Quinn Priester, Matthew Allan, and George Kirby before ultimately taking Carroll there. At 26, they had a choice of Allan, JJ Goss, Blake Walston, and Brennan Malone. They likely had Malone and Walston with a similar grade on their board, but felt Walston was less likely to drop to 33 than Malone. They ended up with both players, which should be a win in their books. At the same time, Ladnier sounded pretty confident that none of these guys will break the bank for them.
The college guys, while they have questionable upside, have intriguing tools. Both Jameson and Nelson are upper 90s fastball with a devastating slider and a developing change-up. While both players could rocket into the majors as relievers due to have two plus pitches, they will get the opportunity to start. Ultimately I think they end up in the back-end of the bullpen with Nelson and Jameson being the closer and fireman respectively due to their ability to miss bats and blow away hitters. Henry and Fletcher don’t have physically impressive tools by themselves, but the total package outplays the tools and both players come from accomplished programs and have a bit more upside to unlock in pro ball that could turn them from B- value guys (reliever/bench) to B guys (#4 starter/everyday player).
My breakdown of the Day 2 conference call will come later this week.